Inspired by Amazon’s need for tech talent, community colleges in Dallas County and Texas will offer a new degree that prepares students for careers in cloud computing.
Texas education officials and Amazon Web Services announced associate and license programs Thursday at an event in Dallas attended by Secretary of State Ruth Hughs, Higher Education Commissioner of the state and several Texas legislators.
Local and state education officials have been looking for ways to strengthen Texas’ workforce and prepare students for the jobs of the future. They set an ambitious statewide goal — dubbed the 60×30 plan — that aims for 60% of the Texas workforce between the ages of 25 and 34 to have a college degree or diploma. post-secondary education by 2030. About 44% of Texans in this age group currently have one. To do this, education officials have supported early college programs and transparent credit transfers between two- and four-year colleges.
With Amazon, they are trying something new: working directly with a well-known employer. Amazon Web Services helped design the program to match student skills with those listed in job postings.
Joe May, district chancellor of Dallas County Community College, said the district is talking with other businesses about creating additional degree programs.
“The closer we are, the better the relationship we have with the company, the more we can align our programs so that our students are the first to find a job,” he said.
The DCCCD is one of 22 community colleges that will offer the two-year diploma starting next spring. Three Texas universities — Jarvis Christian College, Prairie View A&M University and St. Philip’s College — will also offer degrees. The company will also help independent school districts in Dallas, Irving and Houston teach computer and data skills to young students.
Many businesses move to Texas and expand there, but May said developing local talent is crucial. He referenced the dramatic population growth in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The region added more than a million people over an eight-year period – more than any metro in the country.
“We certainly have to import talent, but we also have to develop our own,” he said.
Students graduating with cloud computing degrees could work as software engineers, software architects, and data engineers for Amazon Web Services or another company. Salaries for these jobs start above $60,000 and can reach six figures at Amazon Web Services.
Amazon Web Services has more than 22,000 employees in Texas. College programs could increase the pool of job applicants for the Seattle-based parent company’s cloud computing subsidiary.
Ken Eisner, director of global training programs for Amazon Web Services, said the fast-growing company couldn’t find qualified employees fast enough. This increases recruitment costs and slows the pace of innovation, he said. Amazon launched AWS Educate, a global initiative to teach more students cloud technology skills, in 2015. It has launched similar education efforts in Virginia, Louisiana and Los Angeles.
Eisner said the degree programs can make the tech workforce more diverse by reaching underserved, minority and rural students in different parts of Texas.
Many D-FW residents lack the skills to be hired. About 65% of jobs in North Texas require some kind of post-secondary degree, such as a bachelor’s degree, associate’s degree or industry-specific certification — but only 37% of locals have it, according to district research.
May said he is concerned about these people, especially as automation and other technologies reshape the economy.
“As we have a booming economy today and technology companies are expanding and moving into the North Texas region, we are also seeing individuals being left behind,” he said.